Although successful reading is critical to the educational and social development of children, few studies have explored the neural representation of reading and its constituent cognitive and sensory skills during the early stages of development. We propose a 3-year longitudinal study using fMRI in conjunction with a battery of psychoeducational assessments to investigate the functional neuroanatomy of reading acquisition in typically developing monolingual English speakers from the 1st to 2nd and on to the 3rd grade. In readers of English we predict left fusiform, superior temporal, and inferior frontal gyri activity to be modulated by age. In addition, we will make direct comparisons between these English speakers and monolingual Mandarin Chinese speakers in mainland China at these three time points, to examine the effects of orthography on the brain areas involved in reading acquisition. As alphabetic and logographic writing systems place different demands on phonological, orthographic, morphological and semantic processes, such comparisons will allow us to identify the neural basis of reading that is universal, as well as brain activity specific to each writing system. Adult data suggest that Chinese character processing makes greater demands on bilateral fusiform and left middle frontal gyri, but does not engage left superior temporal gyrus as is typically reported in English speakers. To test for these differences, comparable experimental approaches will be employed in both countries to assess a variety of reading-related behaviors and brain activity subserving these skills. Neural correlates of reading growth will be assessed using tasks that involve word reading and sensorimotor skills. Task-related activity measured during these paradigms will be evaluated using within- and between-group analyses to evaluate the effect of development and orthography, respectively, as well as their interactions. Correlations between task-related activity and performance on behavioral measures, particularly word recognition and rapid naming, will further help delineate the neural correlates of skills that support reading in these different writing systems. The result will provide normative data by which to compare disordered reading.

Public Health Relevance

This work will provide novel insight into the neural correlates of normal reading development in different writing systems, as these are essential to the investigation of disorders of reading development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
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Language and Communication Study Section (LCOM)
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Miller, Brett
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Georgetown University
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